Friday, February 13, 2015

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

Title: Better Than Perfect
Author: Melissa Kantor
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after.

But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Melissa Kantor once again delivers a tale that is equal parts surprising, humorous, heartbreaking, and romantic. Powerful and honest, Juliet’s story brilliantly portrays the highs and lows of life in high school and will resonate with any reader who has experienced either. 

Last year, I read Melissa Kantor’s Maybe One Day and had my heart completely broken. In a completely good way. When I started reading Better Than Perfect, I was prepared to have my heart broken by Melissa Kantor once again. And while that didn’t happen, this was still an emotional story to read.

Juliet thought she had her whole future figured out. On the eve of her senior year of high school, she has the perfect boyfriend and a plan to ace her SATs so she can get into Harvard early and start her happily ever after with her boyfriend. But not everything is going according to plan. When her dad moves out, Juliet has to deal with her mom completely losing it. When everything gets to be too much, Juliet starts questioning everything she’s always believed in. What if there’s more to living than always working towards the next goal? Is that the way to happiness? When Juliet meets Declan, the one person who hasn’t known him her whole life and makes her want to be spontaneous, she starts being torn between her old life and the possibility of a new one, one where perfect is the last thing Juliet has to be.

I was very excited to read Melissa Kantor’s Better Than Perfect if only because of how much I loved Maybe One Day last year. Though I didn’t have quite the same emotional reaction to Better Than Perfect than I did to Maybe One Day, it was still a story that I really enjoyed and drew me in completely. Before I say anything else, though, I will say this: there is a fairly good chance that many people will lose interest in this story because of a certain behaviour on the main character’s part (see the post I wrote earlier this week if you want more on that). But that didn’t stop me reading or make me like the story any less. Aside from that, this is a very relatable story. Or at least it was one I could relate to and one that got me thinking. Is reaching goal after goal the only way to happiness, or is there a way to be happy without always striving to be everyone’s idea of perfect? Better Than Perfect definitely explores this question and got me thinking about it a lot, to the point that I’m still thinking about it over a week after having finished reading the story. The most relatable aspect of the story for me, though, was definitely Juliet.

When you first meet her, Juliet is your typical type A high school student. Or at least that’s how she appears to everyone around her. But from the moment I started reading, I realized that it was more of a front she was putting on than anything else. She wasn’t happy being what everyone wanted her to be. In fact, she was pretty miserable. Much like the story is one many people will be able to relate to, Juliet is someone many people will be able to see themselves in. I know I was. That’s what made this story so interesting to read. The one aspect of the story I didn’t really like though, was Jason, Juliet’s boyfriend. Looking back, I don’t actually think I was supposed to like him all that much to begin with. To be completely honest, he’s a bit of a prick and has slightly controlling tendencies. And at this point in her life, her relationship with him was clearly making Juliet miserable. In all honesty, I was kind of rooting for her to dump him. Declan, though, him I liked. A lot. I kept wanting for more to happen with him, but due to the circumstances, it never really did. The way the story ended, the door was left open for something more to happen with Declan and Juliet. In my mind, they get to have their happily ever after and that’s all that really matters.

Melissa Kantor’s Better Than Perfect is a story many people will be able to relate to, whether it’s that they relate to the overall themes or to the characters in it. This story about finding out perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be is one you’ll want to give a try.

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